Torcello’s famous five-star inn, the Locanda Cipriani, has a great “Our Memories” web page which chronicles all the many famous people who have visited. It's an impressive list of royalty, artists, writers, and movie stars, and it's hilarious to read because it’s decidedly NOT chronological, and all other visitors seem to be designated as either “Before Hemingway” or “After Hemingway.”
And yes, Hemingway is at the top of the list, maybe because he not only visited Torcello many times but when he did, he tended to stay for extended periods rather than just popping in for lunch as many of the other celebrities did. In the fall of 1948, Hemingway spent a month on Torcello where wrote his Venice novel, Across the River and Into the Trees.
Confession: I tried to read this novel and I just couldn’t do it. I ended up skimming most of it and only reading the descriptions of Venice. Torcello gets a few brief mentions, but there is one nice part when the “hero” visits the Rialto Market.
But for the most part, I thought it was macho crap. The hero is a dying 50-year-old American military dude having an affair with a wealthy and beautiful 19-year-old Venetian contessa. For much of the book, he staggers back and forth between the Gritti Palace hotel and Harry’s Bar, having flashbacks to the war and being pursued by the teenage beauty. Then he goes duck hunting in the lagoon and then he dies and the book mercifully ends. What is the male equivalent of a trashy romance novel called? I hate to tell ole Ernest, but NO self-respecting teenage contessa would give his tedious self-absorbed hero the time of day.
I found a paperback copy of this novel in a used bookstore here in NC, and the cover is so funny that I had to scan it in.
First, here is the cover of the First Edition hardback of the book (I found this online), published in 1950. Fairly dignified with a cool little Venice graphic:
And here's the trashy paperback published a couple of years later. Venice is gone (except for what might be a hazy gondala behind the Happy Couple). Who were they marketing this to? No, it wasn't published by Harlequin Romances though it sure looks the part.
Notice the price in the bottom corner: 35 cents. In the back, it says that you can order another copy for 35 cents plus 5 cents postage!
Anyway, don't bother reading this book and don't let Hemingway keep you from visiting Torcello!
When I was there last year, I thought about splurging and having lunch at Locanda Cipriani, but I didn't because I wasn't really hungry and didn't feel like sitting down. There's another restaurant on Torcello that receives rave reviews - Osteria al Ponte del Diavolo.
In Marlena de Blasi's "A Thousand Days in Venice," this osteria is the first place that Marlena and Fernando go after she sells her house in the US and moves to Venice, and the food sounds fantastic. So that place is on my list too. Her book, by the way, is a MUCH better Venetian romance with a much more tasteful cover. :)
An excerpt from Marlena's essay, A Lover's Guide to Venice:
"Pack a blanket and head for the island of Torcello...once debarked at Torcello, stroll for a while, then spread out your blanket in the tall grasses on either side of the main path. Stay quiet and feel the ancient stillness of the place. Visit the seventh-century Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta. Have a drink at Locanda Cipriani and then head to Ponte del Diavolo for lunch, asking for a table where the waiter with the salmon-colored cravat and the pomaded hair parted in the middle can take care of you. If it’s May ask for risotto con i bruscandoli (risotto with hop shoots)."